The animal on the cover of Ruby Cookbook is a side-striped jackal (Canis adustus),
found mostly in central and southern Africa. These jackals avoid the open, prefer-
ring thickly wooded areas on the edge of savannas and forests. They occasionally
make their way into cities. Side-striped jackals are rare but not considered endan-
gered. There are reserves for these jackals at the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania
and at the Akagera National Park in Rwanda.
Side-striped jackals are about 15 inches tall and weigh between 16 and 26 pounds.
This jackal has a light grey coat with a white stripe from shoulder to hip, and a
white-tipped tail. The diet of side-striped jackals consists largely of wild fruits, small
mammals, and insects. They also eat carrion and are adept scavengers; they will
follow a lion or other big cat to a kill. The jackals usually live singly or in pairs, but
they sometimes gather in family units of up to six members. Their lifespan is about
10 to 12 years.
Jackals have been an object of superstition because of their association with carrion
and death, and and because of their eerie nocturnal noises: they hoot, yap, and make a
kind of screaming yell. Perhaps because jackals were often found prowling and
hunting the edges of the desert near cemeteries, the ancient Egyptian god of
embalming and gatekeeper of the path of the dead, Anubis, was depicted as a jackal-
headed man. Anubis served as a psychopomp, conducting souls to the underworld,
where he weighed their hearts on a scale to determine whether they would be
admitted to the underworld or cast to the crocodile-headed demon, Ammit.